Connected Communities is a cross Research Council scheme is aimed at connecting university research with community partners to ‘enhance participation, prosperity, sustainability, health & well-being by better connecting research, stakeholders and communities.’ Its an exciting scheme for UWE, and DCRC in particular, that has offered us the chance to focus our engagement with existing partners across a range of disciplines. While the REACT Hub connects our research with Creative Economy partners Connected Communities supports our work with the stakeholders in social and cultural action that are already part of UWE’s 'institutional DNA'. Our 2011-12 Connected Communites projects are:
1 Media, Community and Creative citizenship
This project describes the development work for a bid with Cardiff, Birmingham & Birminghan City Universities with the Royal College of Art and the Open University. The DCRC package is on the place of vernacular creativity and aims to explore the relationship between current and emerging media ecologies within local networks of formal and informal creative practitioners. This work will shed novel light upon the scale, ambition and potential of vernacular creativity in relation to more formal creative production. Working with South Blessed, an inner Bristol Community Channel, led by a local cultural entrepreneur, and Moseley Exchange, an informal creative exchange led by a Birmingham community development trust, this strand seeks to understand the values of and the links between informal and formal production of creative communities, asking what sort of institutions, spaces and practices can best support the gateway between them. It asks how the new abundance of informal creative content can be harvested and shaped to maximise individual, community and economic benefit. A large scale grant (£1.4million) has since been awarded by the AHRC as a result of this work - see the Creative Citizens project.
2 Keeping in Touch
Keepin in Touch was a small scale scoping project, run in 2011, which looked at how people use everyday communication technologies to strengthen communities. The objects of our investigation are these everyday means of keeping in touch; such as talking at the school gates, texting friends and family, Facebook posting and messaging, blogging, online or console gaming with friends and family, and media sharing. We were delighted to be partnering with Knowle West Media centre on this project. Knowle West Media Centre is based in Bristol, England and is engaged in developing the creative, educational and social potential of people within the surrounding community and the city as a whole. The media centre acts as a creative focal point for the community, providing access to project facilities, training and mentoring, as well as managed workspace for local businesses. KWMC has participated in the research that informed the recent RSA report on Connected Communities and is keen to develop this further. Keeping Touch documented best practice examples of community technology projects where intervention has been made using everyday communication technologies to strengthen communities. These case studies were compared with the ethnographic research we undertake with Knowle West. The results of the research have been shared with the community. Constance Fleuriot led this project.
3 Measuring Value Networks In The Cultural Industries
Our third Connected Communities project was prompted by the debate in Cultural Industry policy research about how to think about value in relation to culture. It responded to the call by Mick Elliot of DCMS at the AHRC Connecting Communities event to formulate new methods for measuring and evaluating cultural work. In particular it aimed to test a working model of ‘multi criteria analysis’ (O Brien 2010:7) through the application of network analysis and ecological theory to a specific creative cluster. The central thrust of the research was to use quantitative and qualitative research methods in innovative ways that combine the subjective experience of culture with an understanding of its value. By undertaking a small scale empirical study, the hypotheses formulated by the International Futures Forum concerning the cultural industries were tested. Recent experimental statistics at the DCMS CASE project and O’Brien’s report Measuring the Value of Culture both suggest that new methods are required to make the case for a Cost-Benefit Analysis approach to cultural value. This project will test the experimental hypotheses developed by the International Futures Forum in their work for the cultural industries. Our relationship with Bill Sharpe and the work he’s done with Watershed and the Pervasive Media Studio already gave us a set of research questions to address here so were pleased that AHRC funded this project partnership with Goldsmiths. Jeanette Monaco conducted ethnographic fieldwork to track the way the Pervasive Media Studio community generates and experiences value. The project also tested Bill Sharpe’s idea of a multiple economy approach. You can read more about this in the final report.